Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The coup in Honduras

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya

There was a military coup late last week on Sunday in Honduras. The military outsted President Manuel Zelaya (Liberal Party) because he intended to hold a popular referendum on whether he should be allowed to be re-elected for a second term. The referendum was scheduled for this past Sunday. The Honduran Congress last week passed a bill to cancel the referendum. Zelaya announced it would proceed anyway and immediately fired Romeo Vásquez, the head of the armed forces, to forestall any coup attempt. The coup happened anyway. Zelaya was arrested on Sunday and unceremoniously expelled to Costa Rica. The Congress quickly installed another member of the Liberal Party, Roberto Micheletti, as interim President until this coming November's scheduled election.

The US, the European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) are all opposing the coup and demanding Zelaya's return as the legitimate head of government.
And furious diplomacy is under way to that end. Zelaya had said he would return to Honduras on Thursday, Micheletti had threatened to arrest him if he did, and he now says he's going to delay his return by 72 hours at the request of the OASA to give diplomacy a chance to proceed. (Zelaya esperará 72 horas para regresar a su país, a pedido de la OEA Página 12 01.07.2009) If the situation is not resolved satisfactorily soon, among other problems it could cause it delaying the arrangement of an important trade agreement between the EU and the countries of Central America; the EU suspended the talks for now in response to the coup.

Pro-Zelaya protester

M. Á. Bastenier in Golpe contra el chavismo El País 01.07.2009 speculates that Zelaya may have set a trap for his opponents. On the one hand, the US, the EU and some members the OAU were less than pleased by his diplomatic and political closeness to Venezuela. But they also are opposed to seeing Latin America slide back to the bad old days of elected governments being overthrown by militaries doing the bidding of economic elites who are being discomforted by popular reforms. Framing the basic issue as "chavism" versus anti-chavism, he argues that the anti-chavists may have shot themselves in the foot by staging a coup. Because whatever reservations the democracies of the Europe and the Americas may have about Hugo Chávez' and "chavism" in other countries, the Honduran chavists seem to have made it much more difficult to show any kind of favoritism to their cause. Chavism, in the case, is very much on the side of democracy against a military coup.

Tom Hayden argues that a failure by the Obama administration to back Zelaya in this crisis would badly damage his chances of improving relations with Latin America (Honduras Crisis Forces Obama to Focus on Latin America The Nation Online 06/30/09):

The Obama position is complicated by the history of US training of the Honduras armed forces, past involvement with shadowy death squads, and concern over Zelaya's alliance with the [Venezuelan-led] Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. In the background are memories of US complicity in the attempted coup against Venezuela's Hugo Chávez in 2002. [my emphasis]
An involvement about which most Americans heard little or nothing, thanks to the sad state of the American news media. Gabriel Puricelli makes a similar analysis in 72 Hours “Before Actions Kick In” on Honduras Coup by Al Giordano The Field 07/01/09.

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